Monday, December 23, 2013

The Reality of Christmas

So...I am a cozy, tradition-loving woman whose ideal Christmas fell out of an HGTV Christmas special. Everything perfect. Gorgeous Christmas goodies for all the neighbors. Christmas parties every weekend of December. A warm, crackling fireplace with a sparkling Christmas tree covered in sentimental ornaments.

And I don't think I'm that unusual - especially when it comes to Christmas. Isn't that what most of us wish for?

It's not just a cozy house thing, either. I always feel "lacking" when it comes to the sentimental, worshipful feeling I think I should have when I think about Christ and the "Christmas story." Why don't I tear up and feel warm and generous and thankful inside like I should?

I've been listening to Andrew Peterson's song "Labor of Love" a lot this month. It has struck a chord with me, especially this year, because it focuses on Mary's labor and how uncomfortable Christmas night was for her and yet how God was in control of it all.

Christmas wasn't cozy for Mary and Joseph, or Jesus, for that matter. But what gets me every time is how Luke recorded that Mary kept everything treasured in her heart. She held onto the gifts that God gave her and would remember them for the rest of her life.

I've been working hard at making a habit of counting my blessings - writing them down - to remember the gifts God gives me. Today I was making cookies with my Wild Child and suddenly decided I had to document what Christmas has been looking like in our house this month. You won't find these pictures on Pinterest.

Misshapen cookie dough balls

A new Christmas tree skirt...but rather disheveled. 

The "mantel" with its decorations...and lotion...and game pieces...and random bells that fell off of elf hats...and probably multiple other things hidden in the garland.

The Wild Child taking a moment to poop and
read his Bible storybook at the same time. 

Looking out at the snow through *very* smudgy - not "frosted" window panes, despite what the song says. 

The presents actually NOT under the tree but on TOP of the bookshelf.

This. Whatever this is. Not a clean floor. That's what it's not.

Random ornaments on the TV stand because someone removed them from the tree and now their hooks cannot be found

The poor tinsel

The Wild Child himself

This is what all those goodies and Christmas cards look like before they leave your house

A helper who eats more chocolate than he puts on the cookies

Words aren't enough. 

That, folks, is the reality of Christmas. And it's okay. It's full of precious blessings and unexpected laughter and too much sugar and moments of thankfulness and worship that I choose to give back to God, rather than "feeling" them spontaneously in my soul. Once Jesus was a rowdy toddler. I expect that Mary had just as challenging a time as I do treasuring those moments in her heart, too, until she gave herself the same reality check.

God is good, friends. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Deeper Calling

It has been 6 weeks since I last blogged. Part of me regrets that. The other part of me doesn't care because I've given up letting myself regret things I fail to accomplish. That's been one of the best things I've learned in the past year. However, I've been thinking lately about dreams and that part of me that sits getting rusty while I love my men and care for them.

I was created to communicate. It's as much a part of my DNA as my brown eyes and the freckles on my face. Teaching. Writing. Talking. Praying. Journaling. It flows out of me naturally. Someday I'm going to write a book. Or a children's church curriculum. It's a dream I've had since I was 3 years old drawing the pictures for a Cinderella book my mom had to fill in the captions for me since I still couldn't write. I remember sitting on my playhouse steps as a 10-year-old writing a stories in my notebook. I wrote a fictional book as a young teenager that will never be published for obvious reasons (think - a Janette Oke book written by a teenager). I wrote a discipleship book as an older teen that may never be published either, although for different reasons. From when I was 18 till I left for college at 21 I wrote letters to camp kids on a daily basis. I've filled 15 journals since I was 9 years old. I taught and counseled at camp for around 7 years in many capacities.

None of the desire or ability that led me to write for so many years has left my soul. However, one important element has: time.

I follow a lot of blogs written by moms who have as little time or less than I do. Often my desire to write stirs up and I think and think about it, and try to eek out words again. There is so much in my head and heart that screams, "Communicate me!"

When I dreamed as a girl about writing, I never realized that I would one day be writing a living epistle in the life of a little boy that would take most of the hours in my day, every day.

And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Cor. 3:3

In June my little Rascal will be joined by a second little Munchkin and my days will be even fuller. I don't anticipate pulling out the old notebook again for a while (unless God were to free me from the responsibility of the work I do for others from home and give me that time - or somehow miraculously create more hours in the day). I really did strongly consider starting a book for middle-school-aged kids this summer but never did and the content still swirls in my head.

But something I've been considering is that my life is communication. Everything I do and say is absorbed by my children, as well as those watching me. And I do get the privilege of teaching in children's church every Sunday - possibly my favorite part of the week (although definitely the most exhausting hour of it!), and those children are living letters I am writing as well, in some small way.

Today I've been listening to Hillsong United's song Oceans (link below). The bridge says,
"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior"

My thought this morning was, "In all of the adventures I've had following the Lord, all of the things he's asked me to do, all of the 'great' prayers I've prayed, answers I've expected, I never imagined that the hardest one yet would be motherhood." You know...I've asked God to use me to change lives - to speak truth to those who haven't heard. I've asked him to stretch my faith and use me to show others that a life lived trusting him alone is possible. But I never expected that living in suburban America as a wife and mom could be that place that is "deeper than my feet could ever wander."

As much as I would love to write a book, until it is clearly God's calling for me, when he speaks to me out of the burning bush, it would not be satisfying, nor would it be accomplished very easily, since I would be doing it in my own strength.

I'm not writing this to bring on a pity party, or to complain about motherhood, or set myself up as some wonderful martyr who is sacrificing her dreams for her son. Heavens, no.

It's just that this is the thought on my heart: when God calls you to do something, it may be nothing like you imagined he would call you to, and secondly, when you ask God to use you, he may choose to place you somewhere you never dreamed. But that place he has for you, that mission he has called you to - it will be for his glory, for your purifying, and for the growth and encouragement of those around you as well.

In my mind, publishing something would be the ultimate joy. But maybe my sights are set too low. God's plans are always bigger than mine.

Where has God called you today? Are you working out that mission with joy, no matter how hard, how foreign it still sometimes seems to you?